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Martin Luther King Jr.

The 25th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. birthday observance was held Monday, Jan. 21.

The festivities began at 6:45 p.m. and were free and open to the public. 

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Bringing a finger-friendly dessert was encouraged but optional this year because of the generous donation of cakes by local bakeries in honor of the 25th-anniversary event. The program began at 7:30 p.m.

The keynote speaker this year was the Rev. Gloria E. White-Hammond.

The distinguished and versatile pianist Paul White was the featured artist.

White-Hammond is the founder and copastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain, executive director of My Sister's Keeper and a retired pediatrician.

With degrees from Boston University, Tufts Medical School and Harvard Divinity School, White-Hammond has been a skillful and motivating force for progress in the well-being of body and soul of the people of Boston. For nearly 30 years she was a compassionate doctor at the South End Community Health Center, and in 1994 created a highly effective mentoring program called Do the Write Thing to help vulnerable young women at her church succeed.

In 2001, her courage and influence rippled in directions that she had never anticipated. She joined a missionary expedition to Sudan to purchase the freedom of 6,700 enslaved Sudanese, victims of the civil war in that country.

The trip proved a watershed experience, leading to numerous forays into south Sudan, Darfur and Chad. White-Hammond has embraced the cause of improving the lives of Sudanese women in meaningful and lasting ways.

In 2002, along with the Rev. Liz Walker and other close 'sisters," she founded My Sister’s Keeper, a three-pronged approach of progressive action. The organization runs the Kunyuk School for Girls in Akon, Sudan, with 525 students; The Women’s Peace School for adult literacy in the same town; and the Sisterhood for Peace Initiative, which facilitates understanding and cooperation amongst diverse types of Sudanese women.

In 2012 Gloria White–Hammond was honored with the Purpose Prize for Extraordinary Contributions in Encore Careers, and the Justice and Compassion Award from Catholic Charities.

After studying at the New England Conservatory of Music, The Conservatory in Geneva, Switzerland, and Tufts University, White has performed solo and with his trio, Paul White and Company, at major jazz venues both nationally and abroad. White developed a musical curriculum for elementary students and is working on "The Piano Project II," which highlights jazz standards from a variety of countries.

A free-will offering will be taken during the evening program.

Past proceeds have been allocated to the King Monument in Washington, D.C., the Arlington public schools, The Arlington African-American Scholarship Fund and occasionally to other organizations that support the work and goals of Dr. King.

Those who cannot attend but would like to make a donation can send checks to the Martin Luther King Committee at Box 320, Arlington 02476. Donations are tax deductible.

This event is handicapped accessible. Containers for the Arlington Food Pantry will be available that night for those who wish to donate nonperishable food items in the spirit of Dr. King.   

This annual celebration of the civil rights leader is coordinated by the Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Observance Committee of Arlington, an interfaith group of Arlington residents. The Arlington Town Hall is at 730 Mass Ave.

For more information about this event, call 781-646-5337.

This story was first published Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, and the latest substantial update was Jan. 22, 2013.


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